Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about the fun and frolics of this year’s summer, with a promise of further reflections about my souvenir stack of books.


As I mentioned previously, I try not to bring physical books into our apartment these days. We have just about enough space for the books currently in our library, and not too much more. I mostly try to read e-books for convenience these days. But it is hard to resist such delicious treats sometimes.

All of the books in the stack are for reading. Some are also for looking at. They all, just by chance, have marvellously tactile qualities, enhancing the physical experience of reading all the more.

I bought Felix CulpaDrawing Water and Dull Margaret after attending author events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Jeremy Gavron’s novel is about the search for a troubled boy recently released from prison. The text has been woven like a rich tapestry with lines from 100 other books. As a result, it reads like a beautiful prose poem, full of wonder and depth. Gavron gave a fascinating and very personal talk about how he came to publish such a work, including several readings. I urged him to create an audio version when he signed my copy – fingers crossed.

Tania Kovats hosted a thought-provoking event in which she talked to Maria Popova (of BrainPickings fame) about the pioneering environmentalist, Rachel Carson and her seminal work The Sea Around Us. The discussion ranged widely, touching on issues such as climate change, women being taken seriously (or not), and the power of art and poetry to illuminate complex issues. In Drawing Water, Kovats has curated a wonderful collection of art and writings from all kinds of people who are searching for something via the medium of water: map-makers, whalers, engineers etc. It is the most gorgeous collection and one which I will be dipping in to forever.

Before attending the event with actor Jim Broadbent and illustrator Dix, I was not sure about their book Dull Margaret, with its rather brutal graphic depiction of the title character’s bleak existence. Having heard them talk about generously about the development process, with Jim Broadbent at his lyrical best, expanding eloquently about his love for the beleaguered Margaret, I just had to buy a copy. I am only slowly becoming more acquainted with graphic novels and it is a fascinating journey.


Further visual feasts were in store, with Roger Billcliffe’s talk about ‘The Art of the Four’, namely Charles Rennie Mackintosh, his wife Margaret MacDonald, her sister Frances MacDonald and James Herbert McNair. His recent book about the work of these four friends and their relationship with the rest of the art world is a sumptuous read as well as being utterly absorbing visually. I love Margaret’s work in particular and it was such a pleasure to hear more about these important artists.

And more visual stimulation arrived via Fiona Watson and Piers Dixon, who spoke entertainingly about their work on the relationship between Scottish history and the landscape around us. I am fascinated by the geology of Scotland, as well as being totally in love with this gorgeous part of the world. I am looking forward to spending many hours pouring over the amazing pictures and brilliant insights in their book.


Kate Davies’ book Handywoman is a must-read for anyone interested in the life- and health-enhancing features of creativity. It is no secret that I am passionate about the importance of creativity in our lives, whatever form it may take. I therefore also love the ethos behind the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Playbook, which celebrate the ordinary and everyday through stranded knitting. I know both these books will provide much inspiration.


I picked up these two books in the Book Festival shop while kidding myself that I was just having a browse and did not intend to buy anything.  Matthew Herbert’s novel takes place over the course of just an hour. I think its reading experience may be similar to Jeremy Gavron’s novel in that it is a non-traditional, poetic treatment of words as experiences and emotions. Ziyad Marar’s book takes a look at that endlessly fascinating topic of how we judge, and are judged. Once I had picked it up, I could not put it down again because the cover feels so gorgeous. But more seriously, it chimes directly with the themes I am currently exploring with my sister on our Bald as Brass Blog.


As for these Victoria Crowe books, well that deserves a whole post to itself – the third and final part of this mini-series, coming soon….


In the meantime, let me close this post with the book on the top of my pile – Dear Heart, by Jenny Davis. This is one of those books which feels like a sacred and rare jewel in the hand. It was recommended by my dear friend Gallivanta, who wrote:

‘In 1988 Jenny Davis stumbled upon dozens of letters her aunt, Wynne, had written to her young soldier husband Mickey during World War II. Many of the letters remained unopened, still bearing the mark of their tragedy, a war office stamp, “No Trace”. This book is the story of an exceptional love as told by those letters written over a four year period from 1941 – first daily, then weekly. Wynne received only two replies and yet she poured out her hopes and reassurances and titbits of news from the home front. In 1945, at the end of the war, Wynne received both the unopened letters, and the news that Mickey had died in 1943 in Malaya, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.’

I just had to get my own copy and how glad I am that I did. I am of course looking forward to delving into the story. It also acts as a mark of friendship across the miles. How I love this online community of ours! 🙂


29 thoughts on “Autumn Reflections on Summer High Jinks: Part Two

    1. Ooh how I would love to visit the MAK – it looks an incredible experience. Billcliffe’s book is a must-have if you are an art-nouveau fan. And let’s face it, who isn’t!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. He was an absolute delight as you would expect. I haven’t seen Enchanted April but it looks great so have added it to my watch list – thanks for the tip! x

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Felix Culpa sounds really good, the idea of getting sentences out of context and wondering where they came from, as well as getting a taste of different styles will lead to more books being added to the list, no doubt!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I decided a long time ago that I would never buy a book at a festival event because I had too many on my shelves that I had bought either on impulse or because I felt obliged to, which then turned out to be not my thing at all and remained unread. I hope you are much better at making advised judgments than I am.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean – I have a couple of volumes like that. As you say, important to learn from experience and I must admit that I have come to understand the difference between attending a cracking event and the need also to have the book!


  3. What are Book Festivals for if not to come away with more books to inspire and entertain us! We are fortunate, beyond words!, to have access to so much literature. Grasp it in both hands and enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. lol – very wise! I found myself having to shelter in a branch of Waterstones a few weeks ago when an unexpected rain storm swept in. It was all I could do to stop myself from buying anything! I took photos of book covers instead to distract myself!! 😀

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  4. Kate Davies’ book is already on my radar but, my goodness, you’ve got a tempting stack of goodies here. I’m not sure my bank balance is going to thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I have also been trying not to buy books; I have loads of volumes on my shelves I haven’t read yet and am reading these and giving them away afterwards (if I can 😀 ). However…… I have somehow managed to acquire a few books when out shopping or browsing on-line. My husband, who is always nagging me to get rid of more books actually bought me one for my birthday recently, as did my daughter! These things just happen, don’t they?
    I like the look of a few of your new books – the Rennie Mackintosh for example, and the Tania Kovats book too. I like Jim Broadbent and would have loved to have heard him speak. My daughter reads many graphic novels and hopes to produce one of her own eventually – I’m sure she would love poor Dull Margaret. I see Clanmother recommends ‘Enchanted April’. I do too! The film with Jim Broadbent et al, is a beauty as is the book by Elizabeth von Arnim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, that’s sealed it for Enchanted April then! Jim Broadbent was an absolute delight as you can imagine. I think, though, that he was a bit bemused by the approach of some of the festival-goers. In response to a question about ‘his notion of gender’, he replied ‘I haven’t got a notion of gender – people are men and women and that’s it’. Go Jim, I thought!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha! No LGBT for him then!
        The film music for Enchanted April is rather nice too – written by Richard Rodney Bennett whom I met when I was at Guildhall Junior school. He came in to give us a talk on composition but I can’t remember anything he said! I don’t think my friend and I were really listening as I remember we were admiring his ability to lounge on a hard upright chair.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh dear, I would not wish to have misrepresented poor Jim on the gender front – apologies for not being clear. He was saying that gender is meaningless for him as any kind of way of marking people out, and went on to describe how much he enjoys playing female parts when he gets the time. And what a great story about RRB – I love trying to picture him lounging on his chair, being scrutinised by you two!

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